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Russia is at a crossroads. Over the past two decades the country, that was maybe a faltering democracy yet still on a road to European integration, has turned into a neo-totalitarian state that terrorizes its own population and maintains the most aggressive policy possible to neighboring countries that it claims to be either within its sphere of influence or, even worse, “false states” that should not exist. Under leadership of Putin Russia has become a prime threat to world peace. The Russian Empire, taken over by the Bolsheviks in 1917 and turned into a Soviet Empire, has become a melting pot of Russian and Soviet imperial ambitions. While it claims to retore its earlier greatness, it in fact shows increasing symptoms of an impending imperial collapse. 

How can Russia return to the international civilized world? What steps need to be taken to assure that Russia, either as a unified country or a conglomerate of new independent states, will be accepted back and will discontinue to be a threat to its neighbors?

How can the population of the Russian Federation be assisted in forming a democratically governed state (or states) that have no imperial ambitions and function on basis of international law? How can we assure that those responsible for the crimes committed in Ukraine and other invaded countries are brought to justice and tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity?

There is a general understanding that the outcome of the Russian war against Ukraine and the termination of the Russian threat to its neighbors is an absolute precondition for a return to normality on the European continent, and would create the possibility to gradually heal the wounds caused by Russian aggression. Only solid, viable solutions will safeguard peace in the region and in the world.

But how to reach this goal? It seems that only a total defeat of Putin’s army would allow Russia to renew a serious destalinization and de-Sovietization process, this time combined with a thorough deputinization. The inability to bring justice and try the Communist Party of the USSR for its countless crimes appears to have provide a solid foundation to the KGB and the Putin regime to reconstruct the megalomanic imperial ambitions of the Soviet empire and move the country backwards instead of forward to a brighter and more democratic future. This fundamental mistake should not be repeated. But how to avoid a repetition?

The Sixth Leonidas Donskis Conference, that will take place in the Vaidilos Theatre in Vilnius on September 21, 2023, will bring together a select group of experts to discuss these issues based on learned lessons from the past, putting them in a contemporary context and suggesting what steps should be taken to facilitate the above-mentioned processes.

The conference will be followed by a concert in memory of Leonidas Donskis, with the Lithuanian celloist Justas Kulikauskas and the Dutch Russia-expert and concert pianist Sara Crombach performing.